It’s hard to believe, but today, it’s been 10 years since the death of my favorite NASCAR driver, Dale Earnhardt.
I remember the moment like it was yesterday. It was the final lap of the Daytona 500. Michael Waltrip and Dale Jr. were running 1-2, with Dale Sr. in third and a hard charging Sterling Marlin ready to pass him.
On the final turn, Marlin clipped Dale Sr., which sent both cars hard into the wall. Fox NASCAR analyst Darrell Waltrip was cheering loudly for his brother, Michael, right to the finish line for his first Daytona 500 victory.
Marlin, who got out of the crash unscathed, ran towards Dale Sr.’s car.
But something wasn’t right. Marlin motioned for medical personnel to come immediately to Dale Sr.’s car. Darrell Waltrip, riding the emotions of his brother’s victory, now had another emotional roller coaster to deal with, the well-being of his friend, Dale Sr.. “I hope he’s o.k.”, he replied, in a quivering voice.
During this whole time, I’m looking at the post-race coverage, scanning the TV channels for information on Dale Sr. Minutes seemed like hours trying to find out what was happening. Finally, ESPN gave a breaking news bulletin over 30 minutes after the end of the race.
Dale Earnhardt was dead. My reaction was disbelief.
The word ‘NO’ came out of my mouth over and over again.
“He couldn’t have perished. The crash wasn’t as bad as Tony Stewart’s flip previously in the race. Surely, he could have survived the crash.” (see below)
But as I realized hours later, Dale Sr.’s car was going 185 miles an hour, a catastrophic failure to the car. No one could survive an impact like that.
I was devastated, as was all of NASCAR’s fans and drivers. Dale Sr. was a big part of the sport. He was a driver that many fans loved to hate and, like me, looked forward to aggravating other drivers on a weekly basis.
If he was in your rear view mirror, you could bet he was gonna tap you into the wall or pass you and leave you in the dust. He didn’t win 7 Winston Cup championships for nothing!
Years later, I’m still looking for a driver who could carry the mantle that Dale Sr. had. In every race I watch, I’ll see a driver who will become tentative when trying to pass, or will be afraid to make a bold move.
I’m not sure I’ll ever find a driver who will equal the success Dale Sr. had.
WE MISS YOU, E!
To commemorate the anniversary, NASCAR will stop this weekend’s Daytona 500 on the third lap for a moment of silence in memory of Dale Sr. Here’s more coverage on the anniversary from Yahoo! Sports Larry Biel.